More seniors living near poverty line

Published: Nov. 2, 2022 at 4:08 PM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - New census data shows more seniors are now living in poverty and a third of older adults in Alabama rely completely on social security for their monthly income.

At least half of older adults in the state rely on social security for more than half of their income, and for the thousands who only get a social security check and face big prescription bills there is often not enough of that check left to cover the rest of their needs.

”She always used to say, well, you have to squeeze the dollar ‘til the eagle hollers, well I squeezed the dollar so much...the eagle is tired,” said Sinceray Phillips, an older adult living in Birmingham. She says she thought retirement would look different than the reality she faces each day.

“You looking forward to everything just being an easy street, but I found out that it’s not, you know, everything is totally different,” Phillips said. She relies solely on social security for her income, just like about 30% of other older adults in Alabama do. She says inflation plays a big part in the struggle to make ends meet.

“Some older people have to make a choice between buying medicines and buying food. And it’s, you know, alongside the water bill is going up….if they have a car, or they have to pay somebody to take them somewhere, the whole check is gone,” Phillips said. The price of medicine is forcing a lot of older people to ration life-saving drugs.

“Insulin is life or death. And what happens, especially for our seniors, they’ll make that insulin stretch longer, which is not healthy,” said Jamie Harding, Associate State Director of Communications with AARP Alabama.

Sinceray says besides the drugs, she finds it hard to follow her doctor’s orders to eat healthy because of the price of nutritious foods.

“If you try to eat healthy, that’s even more,” she said. But United Way of Birmingham says they work hard to connect older adults to local services.

“We have a lot of programs that we can work with. There’s other community partners that we work with, that we can refer clients to as well that are servicing other seniors in the area as well,” said Morgan Rhodes, Aging and Disability Resource Center Coordinator at United Way. She says oftentimes older adults do not want to ask for help for various reasons, but she reminds them they are not alone in their struggle.

For a look at some resources near you, visit People can also call 1-800-794-6559 to get personal assistance with applying for benefits.

Click here to get connected to United Way Help with the Agency on Aging.

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